Friday, March 1, 2013

The Difference of a Mile

I didn't grow up shopping at Walmart and was never typically a Walmart fan.  We did all of our grocery shopping at the local Cub Foods (which still holds an oddly prominent place in my childhood memories).

But when we moved to Arizona the closest grocery store (other than a more expensive "gourmet"-type store) was a very small neighborhood Walmart down the main street a few blocks. It wasn't a bad little place and I grew to like it.

When we purchased our home, we found ourselves too far away from that grocery store to justify the trip. Now we go to one of the massive Super Walmarts that takes up at least one square block and has a garden center, a tire shop, a grocery store and an expansive electronics site.

My frustration with our Walmart has been growing. Every time I go, something I need is out of stock. It started happening around Thanksgiving and it's become an expected part of my trips there. If I'm in a plucky mood, I'm sardonically amused by it; if I'm in a hurry then I'm disgusted.

And then there's the normal annoyances: it's over-crowded and cramped, the lines can get tiresomely long despite the 45 check-out lanes, most of which lie unused, etc. You've been to Walmart so you know.

The other day I dropped David off at work and decided to do my grocery shopping at our old Walmart, which is a little closer to his workplace than the big one we now normally use. It was an extremely pleasant experience! The store was well-lit, the aisles were well-stocked (I found everything I needed - amazing!), and the employees were smiling. When I got to the check-out lane, there was one elderly woman ahead of me. The cashier remembered her from a visit to the store a week ago, when the shopper had been purchasing large quantities of dessert ingredients for her son's funeral. The cashier asked her how the desserts had turned out, if she had had enough to go around and told the shopper she had been thinking about her all week, hoping that she was making it through this difficult time. I was pleased that the cashier cared enough about her job to pay attention to the people who passed through her line, even remembering significant stories like that of the woman in front of me.

When it was my turn to check-out, the cashier started applying ad-match prices for me, even though I hadn't asked her to and had not brought my own ads with me. In fact, I had been kicking myself for leaving my store ads at home since I ended up purchasing quite a bit of produce. The cashier's thoughtfulness saved me a decent sum of money.

In the end, this isn't a morality tale. This isn't "Thus, Walmart is evil" or "Thus, Walmart is great." This isn't even "Thus, if you work in retail you should all remember conversations you had with customers one week ago." This is just a retelling of one of those moments during an otherwise ordinary day that made me feel a little bit better about the world. 

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